David Bowie has been lionized as a creative genius and trend-setter. Here’s what he meant to our young readers. And their thoughts on the music pantheon of tomorrow.

David Bowie, London, 17 March 1983. (AP Photo/Redman)
David Bowie, London, 17 March 1983. (AP Photo/Redman)

By Nelson Graves

David Bowie’s death has generated an outpouring of testimonials, in keeping with his artistic genius and status as a global icon.

Global news takes many forms, and the music and entertainment industries are as universal as they come. Bowie and other entertainers with an international following epitomize globalization. No reason News-Decoder cannot cover him!

With that in mind, I asked our ambassadors — several dozen young adults who are interested in News-Decoder’s mission — for their reactions to the passing of a musician, actor and trend-setter who made his name well before any of them were born.

The irony that Bowie, who was an iconoclast through much of his career, would be widely lauded in the mainstream press after he died was not lost on several of our followers.

Here’s what Salma Khouja, originally from Morocco, wrote:

Salma Khouja
Salma

“I’m not surprised by all the attention Bowie’s death is getting. He is such an influential figure of rock and pop music. His music and universe were ‘fashion forward’ and quite scandalous when he emerged in the late 60’s. It made him a poster child of the sexual and cultural revolution that occurred in the late 60’s, early 70’s.

“For my generation, he became some kind of spokesperson for the misfits, those who don’t recognize themselves in the mainstream culture, which is ironic today.

“In my case, listening to Bowie while growing up in Morocco — beside the fact that he was a truly gifted artist who wrote some of the most beautiful songs of the 20th century — was a way for me to distance myself from the people of my school who I found too square, too inclined to act or dress like everybody else and listen to the same music.

“It was a way to feel a little like a ‘rebel,’ or out of the box.”

“Bowie made it OK to let the freak flags fly high.”

Jack Craver of Austin, Texas, said that the coverage of a pop icon’s death is influenced by the age and demographics of those in the media:

Jack Craver
Jack

“While I think David Bowie’s death would have garnered a front-page obit in the New York Times no matter what, I think it would have generated significantly less buzz if he’d lived another 20 years, by which time many of the people who were his biggest fans would have either been dead or retired.”

Claire Graves of Brooklyn said she had seen “Lazarus,” Bowie’s off-Broadway musical, last month:

Claire
Claire

“It was dark and twisted and complex and not entirely clear to me at the time. I just knew it made me feel alive. It rings so much more true and so much more clearly today. I now understand it was his way of saying good-bye. What a lovely gift to us all.”

Graves said the artistic/theater community in New York was shaken by Bowie’s passing.

“He made it OK to let the freak flags fly high. And for a community full of spirited weirdos (I mean that in the most positive way — we’d rather be weird than normal), I think this was an extraordinary door to swing open.”

Who’s on your list of the Top Five?

So who else in the music entertainment galaxy will deserve to be in the same pantheon as Bowie when their time comes? Here’s what Khouja said:

“I personally believe that when either Mick Jagger or Keith Richards (unless my theory is real and Keith Richards is actually some kind of vampire) kicks the bucket, or even Madonna, they will get the same kind of homage.”

Maria Isabel
Maria Isabel

Jagger, Richards and Madonna were also on Craver’s list of the Top Five, which included Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen.

Maria Isabel dos Santos Veiga of Brazil singled out U2, “because they’re particularly politically engaged…. They have something more to tell in their songs.”

Of course this debate, like any discussion of the greatest guitar soloists, football players or politicians of all time, is inconclusive — until the time comes.

“We just don’t have big rock groups the way we used to.”

Still, who among the pop musicians who have emerged during the millennial generation’s life span might one day claim a lofty perch beside Bowie, McCartney or Dylan? Here’s Khouja:

“I believe that Morrissey’s death might provoke a big wave of homage. The Smiths may be less mainstream than the Stones or Bowie, but their influence and popularity keep growing every year, so you never know.”

Craver, acknowledging up front that he no doubt had missed someone important and obvious, put together a list:

  1. Adele
  2. Beyoncé
  3. Jay-Z
  4. Taylor Swift
  5. Kanye West
  6. Britney Spears
  7. Mariah Carey
  8. Sean Combs (formerly “Puff Daddy”)
  9. Dr. Dre
  10. Eminem

“What’s notable is how absent rock is from the list. We just don’t have big rock groups the way we used to –– the big stars are in hip-hop/pop,” Craver said.

Alan
Alan

I have to give the last word to News-Decoder correspondent Alan Wheatley, who, while not a millennial, was the one to suggest this topic and who has listened to a lot of music over the years.

“Dylan will eclipse everyone. Then Mick Jagger (Keith will get overlooked). Paul McCartney, even though he’s inferior to Lennon. I reckon Springsteen is that proverbial U.S. icon.”

Wheatley, who comes from Yorkshire, England, concluded:

“If there’s justice in the world, Van the Man will get the same coverage. Ditto Brian Wilson.”

Categories: Discovery

2 Comments

Bowie and the pantheon of icons

  1. I won’t pretend to be heartbroken by David Bowie’s death. His passing is the current hot topic of the office. Some of my colleagues are more distraught than others, but the majority are in some shape or form saddened. I get it, Bowie’s music touched millions – straight, queer and trans people of all ages and backgrounds. I won’t deny his inspiration and the ways he changed music, gender and identity.

    I’ll tell you why I’m not personally heartbroken… my feelings are twofold. I didn’t grow up listening to his music and he didn’t register for me because he was already largely off the charts. I also know about the rape allegations against him (they were cleared, but we know far too well that it doesn’t mean it never happened). So how are survivors of sexual abuse and assault supposed to feel? Far too many celebrities have abused their power and privilege.

    We need to respect both those who are mourning for his loss and those who just want to have an open and honest conversation about the flaws of celebrities. I do not dismiss Bowie’s artistic legacy and his impact, but I do critique his actions.

  2. I was born in 1984 and as a child I knew who David Bowie was. This was not so much because of his music, but because I knew he was married to a Somali woman. I, being originally from Somalia, liked that Bowie married a woman from the same country I was born in. It wasn’t until my late teenage years that I fully understood who he was and the extent of his contribution to music. Then, I realized I had listened to his music all along. I’m not at all surprised about the attention and the respects being paid to him.

    Who would receive the same level of attention? The music industry has changed so much that to compare artists from Bowie’s times to today’s is difficult. This is because it’s rare to find musicians who have similar talent and who would be capable of being in the business for four decades.

    The only artist that I can think of, who became famous after the Millennium and who received similar attention on her passing away, was Amy Winehouse.

    Although I am not a fan, I can see Adele receiving similar attention.

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